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Conservatism: True & False by Mike Church

Conservatism: True & False

conservatismHere is my interview with Dr. Claes G. Ryn. On this show we discussed numerous topics including modern “conservatism” (or “Neo-Conservatism”) and traditional conservatism.

Mike: So let me start by asking you to flesh the question out a little bit, so maybe those that didn’t hear me talking about it and haven’t read your essay will understand, there is a difference between, I guess we would call it, or I’ll let you define it, traditional conservatism and what passes asconservatism today, which is filled with admiration, it seems, and acceptance of a very large state, and certainly a very large state abroad that wishes to have its way with the world, that’s willing to use military force in order to gain it. That’s not the kind of conservative or conservatism that is traditional, though, is it?

Claes Ryn: If a conservative is interviewed on television, it’s likely to not be a conservative of the kind you’re talking about, but a neoconservative. As you indicated, the neoconservatives make some assumptions that are radically different from those of traditional conservatives. To give you an example, one very famous political theorist who has contributed to the thinking of American neoconservatism, Leo Strauss, is a very sharp critic of Edmund Burke. Edmund Burke, of course, was the great favorite of Russell Kirk and many other leaders of the post-war American intellectual conservative movement. Continue reading

Tocqueville countercultural churches on Keeping Our Countercultural Churches by Peter Lawler

Tocqueville on Keeping Our Countercultural Churches

by Peter Lawler

countercultural churches

To begin with a simple point, one basic insight of Tocqueville is that things are always getting better and worse. Thus, it is hardly surprising that Tocqueville could be used to defend the advantages of religious establishment. He, more generally, is unrivaled in arousing a kind of selective nostalgia that helps us remember the advantages of aristocracy. He says, in Democracy in America’s conclusion, that aristocracy is better in cultivating great individuality, and, as a partisan of greatness himself, he’s chilled when he thinks about how little room there will be for men such as himself in a democracy. Democracy, however, is more just. Tocqueville takes the Creator’s view, and not his own, by preferring democratic justice to aristocratic greatness. His tasks are to make democracy as compatible with greatness as possible, and to see greatness in democracy.

Tocqueville says modern democracy is, in fact, Christian in inspiration. What Aristotle and Plato taught was, in the crucial respect, untrue:

The most profound and vast geniuses of Rome and Greece were never able to arrive at the idea, so general but at the same time so simple, of the similarity of men and of the equal right of freedom that each bears from birth; and they did the utmost to prove that slavery was natural and would also exist […]

All the great writers of antiquity were part of the aristocracy of masters, […] and it was necessary that Jesus Christ come to earth to make it understood that all members of the human species are naturally alike and equal.

There’s a lot here opposed to the Aristotelian idea that it’s the function of the state (or city) to inculcate a higher or spiritual/aristocratic understanding of moral virtue in people. The classical view was that all human beings—except perhaps the rare philosopher—are stuck in the natural slavery of the “cave” or the political order. But the truth taught by Jesus—the truth about persons—is that all creatures made in God’s image have “the equal right of freedom” from some comprehensive civil theology or even from some established or politicized church.

Tocqueville almost begins Democracy with a judicious appraisal of a Christian heresy that was the basis of the first American founding. The Puritans, he explained, were educated political idealists who founded a real and unprecedented democratic country that was less distorted by political prejudice than even Plato’s city in speech. They were all about egalitarian political participation and the education of everyone as beings with souls. Their egalitarian idealism was admirable and remains an indispensable feature in elevating our democracy above individualistic self-concern. But the Puritans erred by criminalizing every sin, using Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy as the foundation for civil legislation, and for intrusively offending the right to freedom of conscience. There’s nothing about the teaching of Jesus, Tocqueville claims, that could justify making political life that comprehensive for religious reasons.

Not only that, religion can be effective in America only insofar as it stands apart from the general tendency of democratic development. The Americans, Tocqueville explains, are Cartesians without ever having read a word of Descartes. That’s because the democratic method is grounded in the same principle as the Cartesian one—doubt. It’s the doubt of personal authority that frees the democratic mind for self-determination. It’s an offense against my egalitarian freedom to allow priests, parents, politicians, and so forth to rule me by privileging what they think. But the problem with this assertion of personal pride is that it points in a direction of a more overwhelming personal weakness. It’s true that no one is better than me, but I’m no better than anyone else. That means I have no point of view by which to resist public opinion or the other impersonal forces—such as pop science, history, technology, and so forth—that surround me. So American freedom leads, finally, to the apathetic passivity of what Tocqueville calls the heart disease of individualism, of being emotionally locked up in the tiny world of your puny self.

But the Americans, Tocqueville reports, exempt religion from their habitual doubt. Their view is that they need some dogma to exercise their political freedom well, to have the confidence to think and act well. That creates space for religion to perpetuate what’s true about aristocracy: Human beings are distinguished by their souls, and each of us by taking his or her singular and immortal personal moral destiny seriously. That’s what Americans, Tocqueville reports, hear in church on Sunday. It was in Tocqueville’s time as it is in ours that the observantly religious Americans have a countercultural confidence that insulates them from democracy’s degrading excesses. It’s our religious observant Americans, after all, who can extend their hearts enough to have babies enough that the global “birth dearth” displays itself much more gently in our country.

The democratic truth is that we’re all created equal, but truth, by itself, easily morphs into apathetic passivity and material self-indulgence. The aristocratic truth is that to be human is to have a singular greatness (and misery) not shared with the other animals. The Christian truth is that all men were equally created to display the greatness of unique and irreplaceable individuality, and part of that greatness is the truth about who we are that we can joyfully and responsibly share in common. The danger in democracy is that Christian churches lose their capacity to be genuinely countercultural—or teach the truth that will be neglected “on the street” in middle-class democracy. And so the separation of church and state is to keep the church from being corrupted by excessive concern with endlessly egalitarian justice and the logic of the market. The separation is for the integrity of the church by limiting the claims for truth and morality of the democratic “social state,” which includes the democratic state.

But it’s both futile and even un-Christian to think that there could be, in the modern world, a state that favors or properly appreciates the church. Orestes Brownson, the greatest American Catholic thinker ever, said all the church should need and want from America is freedom to pursue its evangelical mission. That means, of course, that Americans should understand political freedom to be freedom for the church, for an organized body of thought and action. And we can see that the church flourished in America in the relative absence of politicized intrusion or corruption for a very long time.

The danger now, as always, is that the individualistic yet highly judgmental democracy—our creeping and creepy mixture of progressivism and libertarianism—will seek to impose its standards on our countercultural churches. Tocqueville was alive—although maybe not alive enough—to that danger. Who can deny that that the danger is greater now than ever? Today’s issues, Tocqueville would probably say, have their origins in the surrender of our contemplative Sunday to commerce and “seventh-day recreationalists.”

But anyone who thinks today’s remedy would be an established church would do well to remember how the establishments in Spain, Ireland, and Quebec worked out, the hyper-secularist and sometimes nihilistic countermovements in the name of democracy they generated. Those attempts to wield fundamental political influence produced clericalism and a kind of intrusiveness we Americans associate with the Puritans. The film Philomena is distorted by a kind of fanatical anti-Catholic ire, but, peel away that unfairly self-righteous anger, and we still see evidence of a Puritanical Irish church and society not particularly solicitous of the equal rights of person—include mothers wed or unwed—to liberty.

St. Nicholas Tavelic and Companions: Defenders From Islam

St Nicholas Taveric
St. Nicholas Tavelic and Companions
(d. 1391)

Nicholas and his three companions are among the 158 Franciscans who have been martyred in the Holy Land since the friars became custodians of the shrines in 1335.

Nicholas was born in 1340 to a wealthy and noble family in Croatia. He joined the Franciscans and was sent with Deodat of Rodez to preach in Bosnia. In 1384 they volunteered for the Holy Land missions and were sent there. They looked after the holy places, cared for the Christian pilgrims and studied Arabic.

In 1391 Nicholas, Deodat, Peter of Narbonne and Stephen of Cuneo decided to take a direct approach to converting the Muslims. On November 11, 1391, they went to the huge Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem and asked to see the Qadi (Muslim official). Reading from a prepared statement, they said that all people must accept the gospel of Jesus. When they were ordered to retract their statement, they refused. After beatings and imprisonment, they were beheaded before a large crowd.

Nicholas and his companions were canonized in 1970. They are the only Franciscans martyred in the Holy Land to be canonized.



Francis presented two missionary approaches for his friars. Nicholas and his companions followed the first approach (live quietly and give witness to Christ) for several years. Then they felt called to take the second approach of preaching openly. Their Franciscan confreres in the Holy Land are still working by example to make Jesus better known.

In the Rule of 1221, Francis wrote that the friars going to the Saracens (Muslims) “can conduct themselves among them spiritually in two ways. One way is to avoid quarrels or disputes and ‘be subject to every human creature for God’s sake’ (1 Peter 2:13), so bearing witness to the fact that they are Christians. Another way is to proclaim the word of God openly, when they see that is God’s will, calling on their hearers to believe in God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Creator of all, and in the Son, the Redeemer and Savior, that they may be baptized and become true and spiritual Christians” (Ch. 16).

Informing Catholic Consciences: Compiled by the Diocese of Trenton

Informing Catholic Consciences

Bishop O'Connell October 21, 2013
Informing Catholic Consciences.pdf

The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in the United States does not endorse any candidate for political office whatsoever and does not endorse any political party. In its 2007 statement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) states that “we bish­ops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote” but, rather, “to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth (paragraph 7).” The bishops continue, “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation (paragraph 13).” Neither the USCCB nor the Diocese of Trenton provide, present or endorse a “voters’ guide” or a “scorecard of issues” with directions on how to vote. In an effort to help Catholics form and inform their consciences, however, we do attempt to present Catholic teaching on moral and social issues to the faithful clearly and consistently in ac­cordance with the Gospel and the Church’s rich tradition regarding matters of faith and morals. Although by no means exhaustive, the following summary briefly attempts to do that.

Abortion, Euthanasia and Life Issues: RCC teaches unqualified and absolute support for all human life in all its stages from conception to natural death. RCC considers abortion and euthanasia grave moral evils (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraphs 2270 through 2283).

Death Penalty: RCC teaches that “at the heart of the Catholic teaching on the death penalty is the belief that ‘human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end (CCC, paragraph 2258).’” In paragraphs 2266 and 2267, CCC goes on to teach that

The State’s effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime. The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender (CCC, paragraph 2266).

The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor. “If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.’”[John Paul II, encycli­cal Evangelium Vitae, paragraph 56.] (CCC, paragraph 2267). Continue reading

Pray for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

Pray for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty

October 23, 2013 | By 

It can be surprisingly easy to forget at times that Catholics and other people of faith are living in an increasingly hostile secular culture. But, we must never forget; we must remain watchful. The U.S. Bishops have called Catholics to prayer, fasting and abstinence for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty. From the “Call to Prayer” Video produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

“Once all reference to God has been removed, the meaning of everything else becomes profoundly distorted.” (Blessed John Paul II) … “Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty are being threatened. Religious persecution is nothing new…”

Won’t you join in? Watch the video…

Into the deep…


Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™ and usually appears on Sundays and occasionally on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

Looking for a Catholic Speaker?  Check out Deacon Mike’s speaker page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends and family using the Share and Recommend buttons below and via email. We value your comments and encourage you to leave your thoughts below. Thank you! – The Editors

– See more at: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2013/10/deacon-bickerstaff-pray-for-religious-liberty/#sthash.4rzuZEFH.Wtzkjdql.dpuf

YA HEY: Persecution & Salvation for the Coptic Christians in Egypt

I created this music video during the height of the slaughter of Coptic Christians in Egypt during August, 2013.  This film looks at the current persecutions of Christians in light of Catholic Revelation on salvation history and the redeeming merits of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Though this film addresses the Coptic Christians in Egypt may it stand as a symbol of hope for all persecuted in the name of Christ.

Video from Egypt shows Muslim mob attacking Christian church, taking down cross

Video from Egypt shows Muslim mob attacking Christian church, taking down cross

Published August 30, 2013

Newly-surfaced video from Egypt shows a Muslim mob storming a Coptic church, setting cars on fire and then toppling a cross atop the steeple, in a shocking attack that Christians say has been played out dozens of times since the ouster of Mohammad Morsi.

The video, obtained by MidEast Christian News, was shot Aug. 14 from a nearby building overlooking the diocese in the southern Egyptian city of Sohag. In the six-minute video, a crowd, incensed by the eviction of pro-Morsi supporters from camps in Cairo, masses outside the church. Several members of the group scale a wall and attack vehicles in a courtyard, setting several ablaze. The video culminates in the crown exhorting a man high up on the steeple to take down a cross, which he does.

Dozens of Coptic churches were attacked by members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of the military’s move against Morsi, who critics say was turning Egypt into an Islamist state. Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million, but Morsi supporters blamed them for his ouster, according to Coptic leaders.

Bishop Makarious, a Coptic leader from Minya, accused Muslim Brotherhood leaders of planning attacks on Christian churches, homes and businesses in an effort to divide the embattled nation.

“We were expecting this scenario weeks before sit-ins were broken up; as it was evident of the incitement being made by Brotherhood leaders against Copts,” Makarious told MidEast Christian News. “We were then surprised by the systematic attacks on churches and Copts’ properties, many of them occurring at the same time in different places, in a series of attacks made under a plan they called ‘Plan B’”, which targeted all churches to be burned and destroyed.”

The provisional military government has pledged to rebuild Christian churches destroyed by mobs.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/08/30/video-from-egypt-shows-muslim-mob-attacking-christian-church-taking-down-cross/#ixzz2dgkiw7iG

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